Archive – A Chilly Spring Charcuterie Crawl

25 Apr

Some of the bloggers that I follow include restaurant reviews or tales of eating out. So I thought that I’d give it a try.

archive1This past week, I was slumming in Toronto, spending a night at the pleasure of the province. No, not doing my normal 30 to 90 day intermittent sentence but tagging along with the Director. That usually means while she tends to the J-O-B, I fill my time with a trip to Summerhill LCBO and visiting with dear friends. I’ve spoken in these pages of the Summerhill store and the bounty that it holds but today I’ll focus on an interesting night of charcuterie crawling with my friend, Andrew. The thing that you need to know is that Andrew borders on obsessive on the subject of what my mother used to call ‘cold cuts’. Now, mom really only meant bologna, or better spelled baloney, not what passes these days for ‘cured meats’. Andrew informed this day that he had even made his own (now, let’s see if I have this right), capacollo? The details were of immense interest to him – the story ending with the product hanging in his basement, I believe. That’s dedication to the subject of your obsession – if you read my last post, you’ll understand me if I say, I’ll not follow his lead and make my own wine.

Where was I? Oh yeah, charcuterie crawling. We met up on Portland, above King at Gusto. It was a new spot for me, we sat at the bar, and I innocently asked the bartender how long they had been open assuming “not very long”. The answer escapes me (somewhere around 2 years) but it was a where have you been? answer. So, I’m clearly not up to date on my cool places. Among a full menu, before 6 they serve a charcuterie plate which we had to have. They have their own barrel wine at $1 an ounce. A cool concept – but struggled to translate for me. Call me a wine snob but it was not great, just OK. I’d mention their Niagara pinot grigio was redolent with some fruit that you all have never heard of – but you’d see through me and you’ll know I didn’t have any. However, it allowed us a little wriggle room on the budget. I won’t expand on Gusto – just to say that it seems to be a great place to sit on their front or second story patio – great vibe, super staff, good wine selection (excellent Italian selection but avoid the barrel). I’d recommend for afternoon cocktails – small batch liquor available.

We then cabbed to Archive: a small, village-style bistro on Dundas a few blocks west of Bathurst. When I say ‘village-style’, I mean that it isn’t all tricked up by a designer – it’s sparse but not ‘minimalist’. Follow? Archive is the brainchild of Joshua Corea and his business partner, Joel. Along with chef, Ian Liepurts, they serve a small plate menu with quite an interesting wine list. We settled in for a session of discussing cultural affairs, our families and ordered some stuff: Baccala Mantecato (as per the menu – salt cod whipped w/olive oil and topped with/orange zest, olive, parsley); chorizo; lonzino (cured pork loin); celery, fennel, parsley salad; olives; dates with manchego wrapped in prosciutto; and 1608, a Quebec unpasteurized semi-firm cheese.

So, how was it? These guys played right into Andrew’s weakness because they make some of their own cured meats in-house, including the lonzino. Much discussing of techniques with the on-site meat curer ensued (yawn). But, the lonzino was superb and the best lonzino (read: only lonzino) that I’ve ever experienced. I’m not someone who orders salt cod much. Not sure why but I don’t. So, I was interested in the baccala. It was unexpectedly light, creamy and just the right amount of citrus playing off the cod – served on crostini. Loved it. When I return it will again be on my plate (board). Quebecois cheese was great – just starting to have a little stink but not too much. But, let me say that the highlight was the dates. I had recently been in Chicago and was told to allez-vous à Avec, a trendy restaurant that I was told served these exquisite prosciutto wrapped chorizo stuffed dates. We didn’t – allez à Avec, that is – so I missed the dates. Just had to try them at Archive and well, I now have a new favourite nibble – dates with a snippet of manchego wrapped in prosciutto and slightly warmed – wow!

But, this is a wine blog and I must talk wine or my wine blogger’s license is revoked. I find that many restaurants’ wine lists are somewhat lazy. The work goes into trying to attract purchases with styles, regions, and labels that diners will appreciate sans sip. Wines they won’t fear. Wines that they’ve had, seen on other wine lists, or can somehow be related to their favourite wine at home by skilled staff. “May I call you Bill? Bill, if you like Flowing Creek cab sav, you’ll love Babbling Brook cab sav.” It’s not to say that there’s anything objectively wrong with these wines – just the same old- same old – boring. “But. Bill, we need to sell wine and people are uncomfortable enough ordering wine. Let alone when they’ve never heard of the region, the producer, etc.” I get it. Then step up to educating them and they’ll thank you. But, for me and my peeps, it’s neat to see Gaillac, Bierzo, Montsant, Barberesco, Cotes du Jura, and Pic Saint-Loup wines, among others, available by the glass (average price $11) as we see at Archive. I fear someone having the salt cod with McManis or Ironstone. – because there are always style points available and they’d be leaving them on the ice with Virtue and Moir and to make it worse, the perfectly good wine would lose as would the food. The list isn’t Euro-centric. Well, maybe a bit. But it’s European cuisine, isn’t it? There are Ontario wines – Lailey, Stratus, Norman Hardie, Cave Spring, Pearl-Morissette, and Tawse all represented. And, they have a fine rotating selection of port – I had a superb Coheita to end the night.

When I see places like this, ones I like, I right away think to myself, “What a risky concept. I wonder if they can make it work.” Well, bravo to Joshua, Joel, and Ian – this place works. If you’re looking for a meal of primi, secondi, etc. head further west on Dundas to Campagnolo (superb country Italian – wish that I’d written a post on it after we visited last summer – try the bone marrow). But, if you want what Andrew and I wanted – conversation, great wine choices, inventive takes on traditional tapas-style nibbles, light eating, and Andrew’s all too necessary house-made charcuterie, book a bistro table at Archive. And, for crying out loud double up on the dates!

Archive: 909 Dundas Street West, Toronto 647-748-0909

Cash and debit only.

10 Responses to “Archive – A Chilly Spring Charcuterie Crawl”

  1. talkavino April 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    Wow, excellent wine selection – glad to hear that!


    • Duff's Wines April 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

      Almost all by the glass too. Which posed a bit of a decision point. The one issue that the selection is evolving every day almost. What you loved one time isn’t available the next. But, that means new experiences which is what we wine guys look for, isn’t it?


  2. Kavalkade Krew April 25, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Oy, the shame of slumming in Toronto. How will you ever get over it? That’s almost as bad as Vancouver for goodness sakes!


    • Duff's Wines April 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      Never that bad although sushi in Vancouver is preferable. Toronto underrated for dining.


      • Kavalkade Krew April 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

        Fresh seafood is always good.


  3. thewineraconteur April 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    Remember “man does not live by wine alone” and I may have mistyped that on purpose, a great idea, but we do need food to make the wine shine even more. Enjoyed your report.


  4. Red Wine Diva May 16, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Love the recipe for the dates!!! What wine do you prefer with them – I am stealing that recipe for the wine bar!!! 🙂


    • Duff's Wines May 16, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

      They are great but need to be slightly warm and, according to my wife, not too much pruscuitto. I like a Cotes du Rhone or Crianxa, if white, maybe a Viognier? Good luck.



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